It finally happened, and of course, it was inevitable as time does not stand still and we all grow old, much faster than we can fathom. But there are those that seem timeless, frozen at a point in our memories, where they live, vivid and vital and never faded and frail.
At the of 58, most of my childhood icons are long gone, their passing accelerated by the fact that I was born to older parents, my dad 42 and my mom 39, when I came into the world.
I was raised on a steady diet of old Hollywood movies, a special Friday or Saturday night privilege, as I was allowed to stay up late, way past my bedtime, to watch the classics with my father. My parents, being older, did not take bedtime lightly, so this special time with dad was the highlight of my week. It’s funny as I look back because this movie time was sweet and simple, no popcorn, chips or soda. It was the movies and their stars that fed me and sparked my imagination. Those were the days, when men were dashing and women were breathtakingly beautiful and everyone dressed, to the nines, as my mom would say. Those films showcased some of the greatest actors of all time and the writing was smart and sassy, filled with witty repartee and innuendo. Women were not just pretty; they were independent, resourceful, strong, calculating and funny. And they wore pants, three decades before my school changed their rigid dress code.
But it was the leading men who turned my head, as they did for most young girls. To me, they remain a special breed, larger than life and irreplaceable. Today’s leading men pale in comparison and frankly just don’t do it for me. There are too many greats to list, so here are a few of my favorites, Clark Gable (It Happened One Night), William Powell (The Thin Man Series), James Stewart (The Cheyenne Social Club), Steve McQueen (The Great Escape) Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke) and Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird). You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve left out your favorite, there are just so many.
But I’ve saved the best for last, my two all time favorite leading men, Cary Grant and James Garner. You might be wondering why these two, what makes them so special, besides the obvious, their unconventional, easy good looks.
For me, the answer is easy; it’s their wit and intelligence that turn me on. They are brave in the face of danger, but not stupidly macho. They foil the bad guy with their brains, not brawn. They can spin a good line and are not above stretching the truth if need be. They are loyal to their friends even those who make them crazy. They are honorable, but not foolishly so. They love women, but have a bit of the rake in them. In short, they are the perfect guys, basically good, but with just enough pop and sizzle to keep me interested. And Cary Grant wore slacks like no man has or ever will. As for James Garner, his perfect, somewhat sly, I have a secret smile. Oh and the coolest muscle car ever.
Cary Grant has been gone for many years and today I learned of my last idol’s passing. I’ll admit, I cried a little. Good journey, James, you will be missed, but never forgotten.